The Washington Redskins are "Back on the Warpath" and their play is simply super. After watching the 1989 highlights (NFL Films Video, 22 mins., $14.98), one has to wonder how a team that did so many things so very well could finish 10-6 and out of the playoffs?
The video, scheduled for release Wednesday, follows the pattern of all highlight video yearbooks, packing in the big plays and high spots of the season and leaving the impression that this team belonged in the Super Bowl.
Fluffy and puffy or not, there's a lot to like. It's enjoyable to watch how the team bounced back from two heartbreaking losses at the opening of the season. And how, after slipping to 5-6, the team regrouped with a number of youngsters and newcomers to overcome a series of mishaps and injuries and win its final five games impressively.
As writer and director Chris Barlow notes: With five games to go, the team "came out of a gut check with straight A's -- anxious, angry and aggressive ... At times it seemed like a team not sure what direction it was going in, but by the end of the season, riding a 5-0 spurt, it appeared that everything was straightened out."
Narrator Jeff Kaye declares it "a season of heartbreaking losses that would have destroyed most teams, but not Washington ... a season where young players were thrown into pivotal roles and they came up big."
Players like Mark Schlereth, A.J. Johnson, Raleigh MacKenzie and Fred Stokes not only filled holes, they sparked a winning spirit. So did newcomer Earnest Byner, who "had to adjust to new demands and became a winner." Holdovers such as quarterback Mark Rypien and "The Posse" (Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders) were brilliant down the stretch as all three pass catchers topped the 1,000-yard mark, only the second time three receivers on the same team reached that plateau.
In fairness to NFL Films' mastermind producer Steve Sabol, it should be noted that some of the season's low points are there, including a glimpse of the first two (final-moment) losses and a peek at painful losses to the L.A. Raiders and Dallas Cowboys in games eight and nine.
NFL Films is also releasing 22-minute highlight videos on all other teams except the Raiders, who have never joined the NFL Films partnership. But for Redskin fans, "Back on the Warpath" is the choice.